Andrei Vasilevskiy wrapped up a series with a Game 6 shutout for the second straight time, stopping 29 shots in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.
The Lightning advanced to face the Carolina-Nashville winner in the second round. Tampa Bay advanced to the second round for the fifth time in the past seven years.
The Panthers have not won a playoff series since the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals.
Steven Stamkos scored his third goal of the series and Pat Maroon added his first. Brayden Point added his fourth of the series in the third period and Alex Killorn had an empty-net goal with 1:42 left.
Rookie Spencer Knight, back in net for Florida after his strong playoff debut in Game 5, finished with 20 saves.
The Lightning grabbed the early lead when Tyler Johnson raced past Anton Stralman to negate an icing call, picked up the puck behind the net to feed a backhand pass in front. After the puck initially bounced, Maroon was able to get a whack at in the air to backhand it past Knight at 6:16 of the first period.
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The Lightning had to kill off two power play chances in the second period to protect the one-goal lead before Florida’s Sam Bennett took an undisciplined penalty at 12:53. Bennett, who took a costly penalty in Game 1 that led to the tying goal that resulted in a suspension for Game 2, put Lightning defenceman David Savard in a headlock and then ripped his helmet off. The roughing penalty led to Tampa Bay’s second power-play chance of the game and second goal.
In a familiar looking play, Nikita Kucherov fed the puck up high to Victor Hedman who one-touched a pass over to Stamkos at the left circle for a one-timer at 13:27 of the second period.
Point put it away at 14:36 of the third, dancing around MacKenzie Weegar down low and drawing Knight to the ice before tucking the puck around the goaltender’s left pad.